Robert with Me: Luis Robert’s Production Still Has Room to Grow

Shedding injury woes and smacking baseballs...what's next?

A while back, I wrote about Wander Franco, and in particular touched on how his work on the basepaths, running about as much as anyone this side of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Esteury Ruiz can, and how that affected, or better put, elevated his value. Today I want to touch base on another exciting young player, who more or less is operating on the opposite side of the spectrum, in White Sox outfielder, Luis Robert Jr.

In general, I attempt to be somewhat detached from players in a dynasty world. Playing in leagues with many people I consider to be smarter than me, I find it easier to explore other people’s outlier evaluations, whether expecting a breakout or regression and just look for the value.

Putting a tangible example of this, as I wrote in the Wander Franco piece, I wasn’t exposed to many, if any, shares of the Rays’ shortstop, and it wasn’t because I didn’t believe in him. I love Franco. It’s just that in his range of outcomes, I’m not really expecting the Rays to be the 1927 Yankees, while also running way more than the majority of teams. I didn’t see the value in Franco, with a somewhat limited power output, in homers. A variety of outstanding circumstances proved me wrong on that front, but it’s a numbers game.

One exciting young player I found myself, almost with overexposure to, was Luis Robert Jr., and it was mostly a value proposition. I wasn’t in love with Robert, but whether it was frustrations towards his inability to stay healthy, or overall skepticism in his production moving forward, he kept falling to me at what felt like good value spots, and I kept getting him, particularly in dynasties. It felt appealing, given his age.

My experiences are just that, but they obviously reflected a larger trend. Looking at the NFBC ADP ahead of this season, Robert came in at 46.14, sandwiched in between Max Scherzer and Dylan Cease. In a vacuum that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but if we look at comparable players, Michael Harris II was all the way up at 30.17, and Randy Arozarena also significantly higher than Robert, at 36.81.

Through a third of the season, Robert has done two out of three things to stand out as at the very least a serviceable get in most spots, given his price tag:

  1. The man is healthy. Across the White Sox first 62 games, their center-fielder has been on the field for 59 of them. Not to read too much into this, but it is encouraging that Pedro Grifol hasn’t felt the need to give him too many breathers, only missing three games.
  2. Robert is slugging the ball. The CF has a .507 slugging percentage, near the line of his outstanding, albeit short 2021 campaign, and well above the .426 line he had last season. There are reasons for this that we’ll get to, but suffice it to say, the fact he has more homers in 2023 (15), than in all of 2022 (12), with over 100 fewer plate appearances, well, it means a great deal for fantasy purposes.
  3. The only disappointing factor, and this is the ideal contrast to illustrate how team strategies and other external factors may affect players, is his stolen base numbers. Robert isn’t really running, as he only has two steals this season.

There is a rabbit hole to get into when it comes to stolen base numbers, and how Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are breaking the game, so to speak. Why there are individual tendencies that may overwrite even team strategies, like for instance, why is Mookie Betts no longer running, even though Freddie Freeman has free rein to steal at will? Why is Springer going to set a career-high in stolen bases at 34 years of age, coming off a season in which he dealt with shoulder issues, but Bo Bichette isn’t running anymore?

All of this is content for another piece, but the reality is that Luis Robert Jr. isn’t a five-category contributor in 2023, even though he has all the skills to do so. Robert is working with a sprint speed in the 79th percentile (well ahead of Franco at 67th), and a success rate above 80% heading into this season, so it is not like he was Brandon Nimmo, unable to work

Factoring in those three things, Robert still has hit enough to be placed in tier four of Pitcher List’s own, Scott Chu’s Hitter List, among names like Randy Arozarena, Marcus Semien, Bryce Harper, and coincidentally one spot behind Wander Franco.

The low walk rate means Robert takes a significant hit in OBP leagues, but everything else checks out.

The outfielder’s 15 homers means he is on pace to surpass 30 on the season, all while delivering a ton of runs despite operating in a rather deflating, and definitely disappointing White Sox lineup.

Robert entered play on Tuesday with 42 runs scored, and 34 RBI. To put it into context, Franco has scored 42 times, and driven in 32 runs.

It is frustrating to see anybody put up a walk rate hovering around five percent, but in his fourth big league season, you’re mostly resigned to that style of hitting.

What makes Robert successful, and there isn’t a whole lot of trickery behind this, is that the man punishes baseball for breakfast.

The power output has significantly improved from last season.

After a bit of a lackluster start to the year, Robert has crushed the ball with a .640 slugging percentage in the month of May, which has mostly carried over to the beginning of June (.559).

Interestingly, it isn’t harder contact which is behind his power bounce back. Robert had a HC% of 32.2, well above big league average last season. That number is down in 2023, but he is three barrels short (22 to 25) of matching last year’s output because Robert is putting the ball in the air more often, as opposed to the career-high groundball rate he had in 2022 (47.7).

As long as he stays healthy, the White Sox outfielder has everything to set career highs in homers, runs scored, and RBI, as a staple of many a fantasy lineups, and who knows, maybe Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn, and a few other underperforming White Sox manage to improve their form in the second half, to give Robert more opportunities to score and drive ’em in.

One response to “Robert with Me: Luis Robert’s Production Still Has Room to Grow”

  1. David says:

    Do you think Robert’s high K rate this season is going to fall back to what it was the past two seasons or is his increase power output tied to the higher K rate? His Decision Value and Contact Ability seem to be much worse than last season.

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